I spent a beautiful week in the red rocks of Sedona AZ and the Grand Canyon. Tea and coffee with sunrises. Painting with daylight. Smoke with sunsets. Colors crescendoed all around from subtlety to fanfare and back again.
While the golden mountains stopped me in my tracks, it was in the luminescent blues and purples of their shadows where I just lost myself. I just handed myself over and said "Take me." What more could I do? The shadows were exquisite, as though the sky were reaching into the land to swaddle the rocks forgotten by the sun. Those dark nooks and crannies lured me into their mystery, and my own.
In many spiritual practices, there is something called shadow work. Shadow work is a practice of facing, and transforming the parts of ourselves that are operating from a wound, a "dark" place. When we operate from a wound or trauma we are living through unsupportive patterns and dynamics. It feels awful, or at the very least, uncomfortable. It can feel like darkness.
The shadow is often misunderstood because it's uncomfortable to face. We cast judgement on our darkness. We call it bad or wrong, something that needs to be fixed or hidden. This judgement causes us to push this part of ourself away and ignore it because deep down we fear that if part of us is wrong, all of us is wrong. But the judgement that creates this wrongness is self inflicted (though societally perpetuated) and it's a construct of illusion. If we drop the illusion we can cast our story in any way we choose. We accept what is, and move forward from there.
Our shadow is a dark side of us and it will always present a choice. We can continue in the old predictable patterns (careful not to mistake predictability for comfort) or we can write a new, more aligned story for the person we've become today and the person we want to become tomorrow. The patterns we live in are not always aligned with who we currently are. What are yours? What we cannot afford to do, is to go on ignoring the mystery of our own darkness and thus ignoring the wisdom and ease (yes, I said ease) that comes from embracing the vulnerability and the wounded Self that hides in the shadows. Embracing the shadow is akin to voyaging the seas in search of treasure, and it's the waves of emotion that you must navigate.
Dancing with My Shadow
I want to ride the waves of emotion in the spaces between, where water mists into air and light refracts into color. A rainbow showing every rolling nuance of movement. To surf the waves, I have to respect the power they hold. I have to humble myself to work with them and their natural movement. I have to acknowledge that I am strong enough to hang in there. And I have to accept that there will be times when the wave knocks me under, and I'll eventually come up gasping for air. I will not drown.* I will rise again to catch the next wave. Because it's when I ride the waves of emotion that I feel the most ALIVE.
My shadow has a consciousness the same as I do and it wants to communicate. If I resist I'll become rigid and fall of balance. If I soften and listen, I find a voice of the true emotion every time. "I'm hurt, I'm sad, I'm angry, I feel forgotten, invisible, trapped, unloved, taken for granted, and what else?" These are just some of the shadowy parts that we ALL feel. At times we may even feel rage, violence and hate, and underneath it all is hurt, pain, sadness, and fear. What is underneath is delicate and gentle. Fear is complex, resourceful, and a ferocious protector - sometimes at any cost.
Knowing the Shadow Through Color
My darkness, my shadow, has gorgeous nuances of color to it. Today, my pain has a background of deep purples. Anger sends striations of red and yellow, softening to pinks. Loneliness, a green haze. Hope glows golden with green undertones of reluctancy. Doubt, a gray and black fog. Feeling taken advantage of turns a dull, icy blue. Desperation is a rainbow of chaotic color, seeking grounding and holding. And there is so. much. more... beauty.
There is infinite color in human experience, which includes both beauty and pain.
Each emotion holds a specific frequency. Each color holds a specific frequency. As I weave color into the interpretation of my emotions I receive a more specific frequency and understanding of who I am and how I feel in this moment. Color lets me feel what I cannot put to words (because how often do we articulate our pain perfectly? Really.). Giving color to the nuances of feeling brings accuracy and puts us in harmony with our true and valid emotions. Feeling for color helps me to feel my truth more clearly and generate compassion and self love. Color brings more information, creates relationship, and gives a voice to the conscious shadow that, at the end of the day, just wants to be loved.
A Colorful Invitation
We all experience our shadow every day in small and large ways. No matter how hard you try to run away, your shadow will always keep pace. I invite you to feel for the color in your shadow. To acknowledge the hue of your vulnerability, your anger, your sadness and see it all as valuable. Ask yourself why this color has arisen, and let it inform you of the emotions and memories it holds. Then feel for how it/you need to be loved by yourself to let this transform. No matter what happens, call it what it is, beautiful. And just love it. All color is beautiful.
Here's to finding wisdom in the shadows and ALIVENESS on the waves.
*A note on not Drowning: in 2007 I was swimming in the Pacific and was swept out in a riptide. I was loosing strength and struggling to stay afloat. I remember locking eyes with a mountain as the fear flashed through me. "Is this really it? Is this how I'm going to die?" Another wave hit. I went under. Then emerged, choking on sea water. I fixed my gaze on the mountain and said, or maybe I heard, "No. I will not die here today." (Perhaps it wasn't so elegantly said, since I was busy drowning! but the same sentiment.) The mountain heard me. And in that moment jet skis pulled in behind me, a lifeguard appeared. I was pulled from the water and dragged to the beach where I promptly collapsed like a soggy noodle.
There is always a chance to choose something different. It's not final until it's final.
I will not drown. I will also not swim in the pacific again :D Sticking to emotional waves ;)